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26 January 2011

Queen Claude of France: a picture of humility

Queen Claude was the wife of the flambouyant Francis 1 of France.   Claude lived a life marked by difficulty and extremely poor health.  Queen Claude spent much of her short life pregnant, actually every year after her marriage to Francis, when she was only 14 years old. The queen would bear seven children to Francis, and die at the age of 24.

Claude was described by contemporary reports as homely, and deformed.  But what she lacked in outer beauty was perhaps made up for by her good character.  The young queen suffered from severe scoliosis and was of short stature.  Claude was reported to have had a warm, gentle nature, but was hemmed in by a rather claustrophobic existence, to say the least.

Although there exists no hard evidence to prove such:  it is commonly believed that Anne Boleyn spent at least 7 years in Queen Claude's household.  Claude spent most of her time in the beautiful Upper Loire, and at Blois.  Anne reportedly adored the French ambiance and sophisticated culture. Anne was truly in her element.  She would so adapt herself to the French court, that in England, years later Anne was often mistaken for a natural born Frenchwoman.  It is believed that Anne honed her remarkable singing and musical skills while in service in Claude's household.

While Claude endured one difficult pregnancy followed by another, her husband also had a serial pastime, but his was with mistresses.  Claude bore his infidelity with stoic silence, choosing to concern herself with her own personal spirituality, and virtue.  Though gentle by nature, Claude ran a famously strict household, and most people in her service would abide to her standards.  Though physically frail, Queen Claude was not weak in character.

Claude's death on 20, July 1524, would have an obvious demoralizing effect on Francis and his court, and syphilis is thought to be the actual cause of his own death in 1547. Despite the lack of fidelity Francis had demonstrated while his dutiful wife lived, he would mourn her death heavily, probably realizing all that he had lost when his young wife quietly departed.

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